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Ohio State set to enact social media policy for Twitter, Facebook

Courtesy of MCT

A proposed policy by University Communications would set new regulations on social media at Ohio State, including a requirement for two or more administrators to be assigned to each official university account.
The Institutional Social Media Accounts Policy, which would be the university’s first set of official guidelines regulating social media, is being reviewed by OSU’s University Policy Review Committee. The proposal focuses on Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts directly affiliated with the university.
The policy is in its second draft after the committee received feedback from faculty and staff during Fall Semester 2012. Faculty and staff have been solicited by the University Policy Process to provide further feedback on the re-drafted policy by April 9.
Eunice Hornsby, who works in OSU’s Office of Human Resources and coordinates the University Policy Process along with Sandra Anderson, the assistant vice president and deputy general counsel for OSU’s Office of Legal Affairs, said the feedback received after the first draft shifted the focus of the policy to regulating the university’s official social media accounts.
“We got feedback from lots of different folks,” Hornsby said. “(The feedback) focused it more on institutional social media accounts, rather than just the use of social media in general.”
The proposed policy states that all institutional social media accounts must have multiple administrators responsible for posting to and managing the account. If a department is unable to assign multiple administrators to an account, that department would be required to coordinate with someone from University Communications as a second administrator.
Ted Hattemer, OSU’s assistant vice president of interactive communications, said this provision in the policy is designed as a “safeguard” to protect university accounts should an account administrator leave the university.
“Having two people on a social media account helps us prevent accounts from being abandoned or unreachable,” Hattemer said. “If there’s only one person associated with the administration … and that person leaves the university, it becomes increasingly difficult to reclaim that page and all of the fans of that page. If we have two people, the chances are greatly reduced that both of them leave at the exact same time.”
Jay Hansen, communications director of the OSU Alumni Association, said the association’s official social media accounts already have multiple administrators, and he believes that provision belongs in the university-wide policy.
“In terms of having multiple administrators on the account, I feel like it’s really essential,” Hansen said. “It’s really easy to set up a Twitter account or a Facebook page, but it’s not easy to maintain it and make it something that a reader wants to see every single day.”
The policy also states that “inappropriate or illegal content shall not be posted by anyone acting on behalf of OSU to any institutional social media account.” Hattemer said there is no set definition of what constitutes inappropriate content.
“That would be defined through our Office of Legal Affairs and University Communications reviewing an instance that’s being claimed as illegal or inappropriate,” Hattemer said. “It’s a case-by-case review basis.”
The proposed policy states the university is “not responsible for content posted by outside posters or users to any institutional social media account,” such as what a user may post to the wall of an OSU-affiliated Facebook page.
Additionally, the proposed policy states that an account administrator would only be allowed to remove content from an outside poster if the content is deemed to be “contrary to posted terms of use, threatening, obscene, defamatory, invasive of privacy, fraudulent, violative of intellectual property rights, or otherwise unlawful,” and with the permission of University Communications.
“The university’s main Facebook page has an open posting account, so anyone can post to that Facebook page. It’s free and open for that,” Hattemer said. “We’ve created an expectation that First Amendment rights will be respected in this space, so if any other account sets up that expectation … then those too have the same expectation of respecting First Amendment rights.”
While account administrators are not allowed to remove content without an approved reason and permission, Hattemer said institutional accounts do not need to be open for other users to post.
“The policy doesn’t force you to open up free posting to everyone, but if you do, then you may not remove content,” Hattemer said.
The proposed policy also requires all institutional accounts to be reviewed and approved through an application process, requires accounts to be created through official university identities and requires all institutional social media accounts to be listed in an online directory.
Without a policy in place, Hattemer said the university does not keep track and catalog all of its social media accounts.
After the feedback process is complete, the policy will eventually be forwarded to OSU’s senior management council, consisting of administrators and university vice presidents, who will review and vote on the policy. Whether the policy is subject to another round of feedback will depend upon the amount of feedback the University Policy Process receives by April 9, Hornsby said.
Hansen said the University Policy Process has worked well with faculty and staff in the process of drafting the policy.
“There’s been a ton of give and take between users from throughout campus and then those who are putting the policy in place,” Hansen said. “It’s absolutely been a conversation much more than a ‘here’s the policy, deal with it’ kind of thing.”
Gina Bericchia, public affairs and media relations coordinator for the Wexner Medical Center, said her department already had its own social media policy enacted December 2009. She said it is important for OSU to have a university-wide policy too.
“A policy helps you be more strategic, and I think it’s a great thing to have as a university,” Bericchia said. “Ohio State is one brand, and I think that it’s great to have everybody on the same page. I think it helps (us) all achieve the goals that we want to achieve through social media.”
The current draft of the policy, which Hattemer called “version 1.5,” only regulates institutional accounts, but the policy details that faculty, staff and students should “exercise care to avoid any suggestion that they are endorsed by, acting on behalf of, or expressing the views of Ohio State.”
The proposed policy recommends adding a disclaimer to all personal social media accounts stating: “Any views expressed on this account are my own and not those of The Ohio State University.”
Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer for Columbia University and a professor at Columbia Journalism School, said Columbia does not yet have an institutional social media policy account but said it is important for university faculty and staff to understand the proper ways to use both institutional and personal accounts.
“I would much rather have people be very careful and considerate in how they’re using both kinds of accounts, and presuming that everybody will be paying attention might make them more careful,” Sreenivasan said.
Sreenivasan cautioned that even with the implementation of a policy, it remains important to educate faculty and staff on social media use.
“Just presuming you’ve got two people on it, no matter how well you think they are at using it, there’s no harm in giving them more training and more abil
ity to understand and make uses of the more strategic, smarter ways (to use social media),” Sreenivasan said.

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